Traditionally, nián cài will be enjoyed after jì zǔ (Ancestors Worship) on the Lunar New Year’s Eve, also called nián yè fàn (Dinner on the Eve), tuán yuan fàn (Get-together Dinner), or wéi lú (Around the Pot/Table). Having dinner on the Eve is to get family members come home before New Year and spend time together on the Lunar New Year.
a popular way to present one type of nián cài, tasting an assortment of foods at once
wū yú zǐ (Fish Eggs), hǎi zhé pí (Jellyfish), zuì jī (Wined Chicken) etc are favorite options of pīn pán
What is Cháng Nián Cài?
Besides heavy meals during New Year’s days, cháng nián cài is a must-have dish.
cháng nián cài (Longevity Greens), referring to jiè cài (Mustard Greens), is just one of the seasonal vegetables freshly-harvested at the end of the year.
jiè cài tastes a bit bitter at the beginning, whereas it tastes sweet and delightful when cooked longer. It symbolizes kǔ jìn gān lái (After the bitter comes the sweet)
除夕应景物 chú xì yìng jǐng wù
During the Lunar New Year, foods are often consumed related to its name with the blessing words, which are pronounced the same or similar, but meant differently, in the hope of obtaining a safe and smooth new year.
Huǒ Guō (Hot Pot)：Everyone enjoys hot pot around the table, meaning tuán yuan (Reunion).
Yú (Fish)：nián nián yǒu yú (Surplus every year), so that this dish cannot be finished on the Eve dinner.
Luó Bo Gāo (Radish Cake)：Also called cài tóu gāo, meaning hǎo cǎi tóu (Good luck and getting promoted step by step)
Táng Guǒ (Candy)：An old saying, “chī tián tián, hǎo guò nián.” Candy is a must-have on the Lunar New Year.
Nián Gāo (Sticky Rice Cake)：A must-eat dessert on the Lunar New Year, meaning getting promoted year by year.
Jiǎo Zi (Dumblings)：Also called yuán bǎo (ancient money), meaning cái yuan gǔn gǔn (money rolling in) or zhāo cái jìn bǎo (fortune and valuables attraction)
Shuǐ Guǒ (Fruit)：jú zi (Oranges) means jí lì (Good luck)；píng guǒ (Apples) means píng ān (Being safe)；fèng lí (Pineapples) means wàng lái (Pineapple’s pronunciation in Taiwanese) (Prosperity comes)
Wán Zi (Meat/Fish Balls)：“yuán” pronounces “wán” in Taiwanese, so having meat/fish balls means shì shì yuán mǎn (Everything comes perfect at the end.)
Jī Ròu (Chicken)：“jī” pronounces “gei” in Taiwanese, meaning “jia” (home). It’s better to have a “whole chicken.”
Jiǔ Cài (Chinese Leek)：cháng cháng jiǔ jiǔ (Good luck can last long.) Good fortune and blessings last long, only when you eat it slowly.
Cháng Nián Cài (Mustard Greens)：It refers to jiè cài. It tastes bitter at the beginning, whereas it becomes sweet aftering long cooking, meaning “after suffering comes sweet reward.”
Fǎ Cài (Fat Choy/Black Moss)：It sounds similar as “fā cái” (fortune making). Currently it has been an environmentally-protected plant, forbidden to harvest.
Jiǎ Xiào Miàn Jù (Fake Smiling Mask)：To escape from relatives’ overwhelming inquiries, putting it on may be a good solution.
I will be having a “Happy New Year” only if you close your mouth. Ha Ha~
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